Tracy Taback was on top of the world in 2003. The summa cum laude graduate had a great apartment in Waltham, a rewarding job at a Westborough marketing firm, and plenty of friends.
Then, one October morning, misfortune struck. Taback parked her car at the office and found she could not move.
“I looked from my knees to the steering wheel, from the steering wheel to my knees,” recalls the alumna, who placed a panicked phone call to her mother, two hours away in Connecticut. So began a grueling five years of doctor visits, misdiagnoses, and a life on hold.
Taback’s first months of illness were consumed by crying, as the once energetic go-getter lay on her parents’ couch. She was diagnosed as depressed, but medication brought no relief.
That December, an ear infection led to an answer. An MRI revealed hydrocephalus, a dangerous buildup of fluid on the brain. According to the Hydrocephalus Association, the condition afflicts more than a million people in the U.S. There is no known cure or cause; doctors speculate that Taback was born with it.
“I was hysterical,” Taback says of receiving the news. “Our doctor got us in to see a neurosurgeon the next morning.”
The specialists acknowledged her condition but deemed it “incidental,” that is, not responsible for the symptoms assailing Taback. Surgery, then, was not recommended. She continued to falter – her speech became labored, her gait erratic – but “there always seemed to be another reason given for my problems.”
At the end of 2007, when a cognitive test showed a great decline in Taback’s mental function, doctors were compelled to action. The alumna was referred to Dr. Paul Kanev at Hartford Hospital, a specialist in ETV (endoscopic third ventriculostomy). In February 2008, a small hole drilled through her skull relieved the built-up fluid. When Taback awoke, she immediately felt different.
“I could think and see more clearly. By the next day, I was steadily walking alone,” she says. “I didn’t have any idea how bad I’d been, because the illness distorted my whole perception.”
Today, Taback is on top again. Last fall, she ran a four-mile road race. She works as a marketing associate at her father’s firm in Connecticut, leading personal accountability training sessions. She is condo shopping.
“I’m feeling very confident about life,” reflects Taback. “I’m a few years behind everyone else, but I’m healthy. This is me again.”